Jane Dolan, a Recreation Therapist at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Long-term Care wants to share an amazing message of thanks to you.

This is a shining example of donor dollars at work and what that brings to the lives of our residents. Without your support, we cannot meet the needs of our families and this letter highlights this beautifully. Your generous support brought so much to the residents and their families through your support of these special visits. You have helped at a time when this has never been more important and never so needed. Thank you!

Dear Loved ones,

Three months ago, life changed. Our doors shut to you…leaving you outside. In what seemed like a blink of an eye our Long-term Care home went on high alert. Walls, barriers and restrictions were quickly put in place. The new mandate became that we would do everything in our power to keep Covid away and keep your loved ones safe and healthy. However, it also left you wondering, “When will I hug my mom again?” “When will I hold my wife again?” “When will I see my dad again?”

In those early days, we struggled along. Each day finding ways for you to phone, see and hear your loved ones. There were days you were frustrated. There were days we saw your tears. There were days we hoped you understood how much we love your mom and dad, and how we were doing our best to ensure they know they aren’t forgotten.

Three months ago, I was busy encouraging your loved ones to participate in daily activities. I was supporting community partnerships so that your mom and dad could experience meaningful art opportunities. I was working one on one with your loved ones providing interventions to decrease stress and agitation related to a diagnosis of Dementia.

My role as a Recreation Therapist is to support, maintain and help individuals achieve and engage in meaningful leisure. Quality of life drives my practice and each day I focus on meeting my seniors in the moment. I love my job and feel privileged to be able to work with this population. Their wisdom and insight is inspirational.

Today my role has changed. Now my days are filled with planning and supporting window and virtual visits. Calling, scheduling, connecting with families and loved ones has become the focus of my caseload. I ensure you see, hear and connect with your mom or dad. I help your loved ones know they are seen, heard and valued. I know your moms favourite foods. I am learning what little things can bring your loved ones joy and happiness. The greatest lesson I have learned though this is that human connection–acts of love and service…and human touch–are paramount. This is true for all of us, regardless of which side of the glass you are sitting on.

For those of you on the outside, who don’t have family in Long-Term Care homes, you can’t begin to feel the heart ache these families experience on a daily basis.

Imagine not being able to see your loved ones and being told there’s no end in sight.

Imagine having to book a window or virtual visit to simply lay eyes on and communicate with your loved ones.

Imagine putting your hand up to the glass hoping to feel the warmth of your loved ones hand on the other side.

Imagine trying to explain to your loved one with dementia why you are standing behind a wall of glass….

As a member of the front line staff involved in creating, facilitating and maintaining virtual and window visits, I can tell you the heart break is a shared space.

Each day I sit alongside my families, I remind myself of the privilege and gift. I am thankful my families have accepted my presence and allow me to support, interpret and encourage meaningful moments and conversation. I have become a part of my families’ lives in a private way…informing and answering questions about their loved ones quality of life. I reassure them we still have a life here on the ‘inside’. Sharing laughs, wiping away tears and taking a few deep breaths have all become second nature in my daily visits.

I’ve also come to accept the moments where my emotions get the best of me. Today I watched a husband sit in the pouring rain, one hand balancing an umbrella while his other gloved hand reaches through the small crack of the door. Each day this man comes to hold his wife’s hand. She is visually impaired and his touch and voice are keeping her alive. Married for 65 years, their commitment and connection are something most of us will never know or feel. I listen to him talk to her as if they are sitting in the comfort of their own home. I watch him look at her with a look of lifelong love and admiration. My chest gets tight and I feel my eyes well up. My heart aches for this couple and I desperately want to open that door and watch them embrace…but I can’t. So I walk away…..taking some deep breaths and acknowledging this moment.

I remind myself that we need to keep our seniors safe and healthy. I tell myself that ‘this too shall pass’. I shift gears and focus on the many wonderful things for which we all can be grateful. I walk into the front entrance and I hear laughter. I see our amazing Ambassadors meeting and greeting staff, families and our seniors. I watch the Care staff ensure their seniors are dressed in their best with hair styled and lipstick on. I watch the Activation team facilitate window and virtual visits…donning a mask, holding a phone and sharing that intimate space between families and their loved ones.

So with each day that passes, we hold fast to knowing we are keeping your loved ones safe and healthy. We love your mom and dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. We will meet you at the window and continue to share time. Time that will be filled with love, hurt, confusion, tears and laughter. We will hope that soon our doors will open again so that you may come and take my seat alongside your loved ones…and on that day I will step aside and watch you meet eyes, open your arms and embrace. In that moment I will know everything is ok. We will all feel that everything is ok.

Jane Dolan

Recreation Therapist, SPH Long-term Care

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